Mindfulness practice is an excellent tool for someone in addiction treatment.
Let go of any new-age preconceptions you may have about mindfulness practice. Instead, imagine for a minute you are faced with one of life’s many stresses. Not hard to do, right? Or, maybe you have a day when you feel like all of life’s stresses hit you at once.
If you have an untreated substance use disorder, stress causes cravings for a substance to ease these uncomfortable feelings.
Now, imagine you are in addiction treatment for your substance use disorder. Instead of reaching for a substance, you learn to stop, breathe and stay only in this moment. Yes, it takes some practice. And, no, it’s not something you can develop in one sitting.
With practice, however, mindfulness works.
And, scientists are exploring the details in terms of how it works and what practices work best.
Residential addiction treatment centers, like The Ranch Pennsylvania, teach a mindfulness practice with the intention of providing those recovering from substance use disorders with tools for stress management, which, in turn, helps them manage cravings and improve quality of life outside of addiction treatment.
For more information, read Research Recovery Institute’s article, titled, “What is the Role of Mindfulness in Treatment of Substance Use Disorder?”
Research digs deep into mindfulness practices
Specifically, what are scientists learning about mindfulness practice and its role in addiction recovery and mental health recovery?
In a study of 286 individuals receiving inpatient addiction treatment, the probability of relapse was 54% lower in the group given mindfulness training in addition to traditional treatment strategies. Read about the research in this 2014 JAMA Psychiatry article, “Relative efficacy of mindfulness-based relapse prevention, standard relapse prevention, and treatment as usual for substance use disorders: a randomized clinical trial.” These individuals were assessed for relapse at intervals after treatment at three months, six months, and one year.
In addition to this research, Harvard University has conducted research into the impact of mindfulness practices on mental health as far back as 1915.
More recent Harvard research considered the effectiveness of mindfulness with depression treatments. This research is important for the treatment of substance use disorders. Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders often go hand-in-hand with substance use disorders.
Impact on the brain
One of these Harvard studies used functional magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI) to check changes in the brain during different mindfulness exercises.
Participants living with severe depression were asked to dwell on negative messages like, “I can’t go on.” The participants then had an MRI. The same participants were asked to break this “cycle of rumination” using mindfulness meditation, and then, again, brain responses were measured. The hope is to isolate the patterns of breaking negative thought cycles with the use of mindfulness.
In another study, Harvard researchers in 2012 found physical evidence mindful meditation helps with depression. Study participants, all clinically depressed, were given an eight-week meditation course. MRI scans showed the brains of these participants actually thickened.
For more information, read “Researchers study how it seems to change the brain in depressed patients,” published online by “The Harvard Gazette.”
There is hope and recovery is possible
We want to see you thrive in sobriety. At The Ranch Pennsylvania, we teach you effective ways to practice mindfulness in addiction treatment, helping you understand yourself and your relationship to substances better. Our goal is to help you rewrite your story and live the life you want.
No matter if you are seeking help for yourself or a loved one, we are here to support you. Call us today at 717.969.9126 to speak with our recovery specialists and learn more about our treatment programs.
By Heather Berry
Contributing Writer with Promises Behavioral Health